Two Democratic members of Congress — one gay and one bisexual — are incurring the wrath of LGBT activists for voting with House Republicans to delay certain portions of Obamacare in exchange for keeping the government in operation.
Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) were among nine Democrats on Monday who voted for a Republican-led resolution that provided funds for the government for fiscal year 2014, but included a provision delaying the individual mandate and requiring members of Congress and their staffs to pay the full cost of insurance without the government subsidy.
Additionally, Maloney voted for another measure that includes the above policy items in addition to calling for a conference committee with the Senate, which would likely mean some give on health care reform.
Both Maloney and Sinema also joined Republicans on Sunday to vote for repeal of the tax on medical devices as part of Obamacare.
Each House proposal was rejected by the Senate, which has insisted on a bill that only continues funding for the government, leading to the stalemate that caused the government shutdown on Tuesday.
Michael Rogers, a D.C.-based LGBT rights advocate, said the vote means Sinema and Maloney are Democrats in name only.
“I am a progressive so I wish Sinema and Maloney were more concerned about the American people than with their reelection,” Rogers said. “When Democrats stand for Democratic principles we win. If these two people won as out LGBT people, surely they would not have been tossed out sticking with their caucus. It is sellouts like Sinema and Maloney who, as DINOs, are more than willing to cave in to the crazy demands of the right.”
Michaelangelo Signorile, a gay New York activist and radio host on SiriusXM, took to Twitter to express his indignation.
John Aravosis, who’s gay and editor of AMERICAblog, also had harsh words for the two lawmakers, who ran as openly gay/bi candidates and took donations from the LGBT community.
“I think it’s abominable,” Aravosis said. “No Democrat, let alone a gay or bisexual one, should be working to undercut health care protections for Americans, let alone helping John Boehner do anything.”
The other openly gay lawmakers in the U.S. House — Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicciline (D-R.I.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) — didn’t join Maloney or Sinema in these votes.
Maloney and Sinema voted against the most drastic proposal from House Republicans to attach a one-year delay of health care reform to the spending bill for fiscal year 2014.
In a statement, Maloney defended his vote for delaying the individual mandate by pointing to the administration.
“I strongly support the president’s decision to give employers more time to comply with the law, and I believe that we should give families the same flexibility we’re giving to our small businesses,” Maloney said.
Maloney also explained his support for eliminating health care subsidies for government employees by saying the playing field for public and private workers should be equal.
“Families and businesses in the Hudson Valley are not getting special subsidies from Obamacare and neither should members of Congress or the White House,” Maloney said.
In a separate statement, Sinema defended her votes by saying they ensure individuals can sign up for health care plans without “being punished” for failing to purchase adequate healthcare coverage.
“It’s now been proven that too many states are not ready to implement the marketplaces,” Sinema said. “It’s not fair to punish people who don’t have the information they need to make informed decisions. Arizona’s hard-working families need transparency and certainty about this healthcare law and its implementation. A one-year delay of the individual mandate will ensure that Arizonans get that certainty.”
Sinema also said health care subsidies for government employees shouldn’t happen with a government shutdown in effect.
“Additionally, I supported tonight’s amendment because members of Congress should not ask the government to pay for their healthcare while Americans at home suffer during government shutdown,” Sinema said.
Neither the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) nor the Democratic National Committee responded to the Blade’s request for comment on Sinema and Maloney joining House Republicans. Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, is on furlough and unable to respond to media requests.
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which endorsed the openly gay/bi candidates and called for donations from LGBT people for the candidates, didn’t respond to a request for comment. The Human Rights Campaign also endorsed both candidates and didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sinema and Maloney have been active on LGBT-specific issues since their election to Congress. They voted for an LGBT-inclusive version of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization and signed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.
Dana Beyer, a Chevy Chase, Md.,-based transgender activist, said the LGBT community shouldn’t judge Sinema and Maloney too harshly for their votes because “these late night political machinations are generally theater” and don’t say anything about the lawmakers’ overall voting records.
“This issue isn’t about the LGBT community; it’s about America,” Beyer said. “They should be judged on a much broader set of criteria and values than this one vote, and I hope people take the context into account.”